Kathputli – Indian Puppet Shows

Kathputli is a string puppet theatre, native to Rajasthan, India, and is the most popular form of Indian puppetry.

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Although there is no written record of this, it is said this craftof Rajasthan is more than a thousand years old. Kathputli is a combination of two Rajasthani words (Kath meaning wood and Putli meaning doll).

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Rajasthani puppets have their own unique specialty. Puppeteers manipulate the puppets with a whistling, squeaking voice and are interpreted by a narrator who also provides the rhythm. A slight jerk of the string causes the puppets to produce movements of the hands, neck and shoulder. Many puppets hang on one rope: one string tied to the head and other to the waist. The puppeteer makes a loop around his fingers and manipulates the puppet. He takes ghungru (bells) in his hands and plays it according to rhythm. These puppets have a very limited vocabulary, so the movements play a very important part. Puppets are moved towards each other with speed and with swords in their hands in fighting postures. Greetings and salutations are done by bending the puppets and leaving their arms to hang loosely. ~ via PuppetIndia.com

Do you enjoy watching puppet shows?

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Mahabaleshwar

Originally, Mahabaleshwar was created as a summer capital so that British sahibs and memsahibs, stationed in the Bombay Presidency, could escape the heat of the Indian summer. Now, except for the monsoons when some hotels down their shutters, Mahabaleshwar is a round-the-year holiday destination. In fact, it is something that you are expected to do over a weekend.

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At the beginning of January this year, we took a short break and drove off to Mahabaleshwar. We decided that we were not going to drive around from one ‘point’, as the various peaks are called, to another. Instead we were going to relax and get charged to face the coming year.

Mahabaleshwar town itself is a quaint, charming but overcrowded. Some of the establishments are really old and trace their origin to the 19th century. Mahabaleshwae 223

Like, Elsie’s Dairy & Bakery, which has been around since 1849 and is currently run by the fourth or fifth generation of the original owners. The cakes and patties that we sampled were delectable and the owners warm and friendly.

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Another 19th century landmark is the Holy Cross Church, which was set up in 1831. It is located at the edge of the town and is very well maintained. For a small town church, it is buzzing with activity throughout the day.

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Mapro Foods appears to dominate the local economy, with every block of the small town having a Mapro Sales counter. I guess it some franchisee operation but the presence of Mapro is ubiquitous. In fact, even before you enter Mahabaleshwar, on the way up from Pune, you come across the Mapro Gardens, where you get some scrumptious serving of strawberries with cream and strawberry ice cream.
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Besides the town itself, what makes Mahabaleshwar so very attractive as a holiday destination is its natural beauty. The various points that Mahabaleshwar is so famous for a consequence of the rugged mountain ranges that abound in the area. Shivaji the great Maratha warrior operated in this district and the ruins of one of his forts, Pratapgadh is visited by tourists.

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We did not make it to Pratapgadh on this visit but we could got a glimpse of the fort when we visited Arthur’s Seat, which is located in a forest reserve near old Mahabaleshwar. When you view the rugged terrain from Arthur’s Seat, what comes to your mind is pictures of the Grand Canyon.  Perhaps,  if some Hollywood producer had come across this place we would have watched Satara Westerns instead of Spaghetti Westerns.

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Accordingly to authoritative sources, this vantage point is named after a Britisher, Arthur Mallet who fist built a house in the area. However, if you believe the local guides who abound in all tourist destinations, the place got its name because King Arthur used to hunt in this area. You decide which source sounds more romantic, but visit you must!

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On the way up to Arthur’s Seat, there are a number of secondary points. Like, Monkey Point that derives its name from the rock formations that resemble monkeys and Tiger’s spring, which is supposed to be the source of the Savitri river. The popular belief is that the waters of the spring have divine powers. There is an old woman who dispenses water from the spring to the tourists. And she does it as a service. You pay out of your generosity and she does not accept charity. You have to drink the water or she will not accept any money.

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Another high point when visiting Arthur’s seat is the gastronomical in nature. Once you descend from the mountains, you go up another mountain to the Ramkush Resort where you attack a large ‘thali‘ of food, with unlimited servings. And whilst waiting to be served, take in some spectacular views of the surrounding valley.

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We were very lucky to go to Mahabaleshwar during the strawberry season. And we got to visit two strawberry farms. And a chance to buy freshly picked strawberries. At half the price we would have paid in Mumbai.

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Whilst on gastronomical matters, the corn patties and corn frankies for which Mahabaleshwar is famous along with the strawberries. The entrepreneur in our picture has been in this business for years as was his father before him.

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And at the end of the day, after you have trekked around to some point or the other, eaten the local farm produce like corn or freshly picked carrots and radish or borras, or amla, then had a good lunch, a nap and tea, there is one thing left to do. And that is to watch the sun setting. We watched the sun setting behind Saddleback mountain. At least that is the name that we were given by the guest relationship lady at the resort we stayed in.

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We plan to go again to Mahabaleshwar later this year or early next year and  see some of the things we missed on this visit.  But mostly, like the sahibs and memsahibs of yore, we plan to relax and recharge.

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Today we’re on M of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

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Kalaripayattu

I first visited Kerala (a State in South India) in the early nineties, much before the Keralites discovered that they lived in God’s Own Country. And having discovered God’s Own Country, on my own, I have kept returning. Again and again.

But my enchantment with the natural beauty of Kerala blinkered me and I gave the cultural aspects of the place and its people a miss. As a result, I missed out on Kalaripayattu, a martial art form indigenous to Kerala. In Malayalam, the word ‘kalari‘ means a practice ring or a training centre and ‘payattu‘ means duel.

Although I had come across some pictures and references to Kalaripayattu in travelogues and magazines, for some unfathomable reason, the thought of attending a performance never entered my mind.

In fact, when I was invited to attend a demonstration at the Madras Regimental Centre in Wellington, Niligiris, South India,  last May, my initial reaction was to decline. But the fact that my father-in-law was the chief guest for this program ensured that no was not an option. Still I kept hoping that inclement weather would ensure the cancellation of the show. But the skies cleared and off we drove to the parade ground at the Centre.

However, once the program started, we sat enraptured. I tried to take some pictures, but the shutter speed of my camera was not fast enough, as the members of the team flew across space in a blur; swords striking swords or shields blocking swords or spears or staffs knocking away swords.

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Then I realised why all the pictures in the travelogues had left me cold. None of these pictures can ever capture the sheer speed, agility and the courage of the kalaripayattu artistes.

A few months later, in October, we got another opportunity when we visited Kumily. Courtesy the events manager at the Tuskers Trails resort where we stayed, we got a real ringside view of a kalaripayattu performance at the  Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.

This time, I did not even carry my camera knowing that it was quite inadequate to capture any action. Instead, I decided to sit back, watch and relish the ‘warriors’ in action. However, the ubiquitous cell phone ensured that I got some pics of the arena.

 

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But I was quite unprepared for what followed. Without taking away anything from the army team at Wellington, who put up a performance at short notice, I realised that this was the real thing.

I will not try to describe the performance, as mere words are quite unequal to the task. Instead, I will share with the readers a short video of the another performance by a team from the same centre. Watch below or here.

The artistes wielded the various weapons, viz swords, spears and staffs, without holding anything back. Only the superb reflexes of the warriors prevented serious injury. And the climax of the show was two warriors jumping together, through a double ring of fire.

At one point during the program, some of the artistes climbed up to where the audience were sitting and like consummate showmen, went around shaking hands. After the performance, many in the audience rushed into the arena and insisted on taking pictures with the artistes. These guys have evolved into ‘stars’ and why not?

You can watch a more detailed video here.

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Today we’re on K of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

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Captivating Coonoor!

Last summer we had a family reunion cum holiday in Wellington, a quaint Cantonment town in the Nilgiris (South India) straight out of the British Raj, which hosts The Madras Regimental Centre and The Defence Staff College.

And just outside Wellington is Coonoor, a lovely hill station that does not get the attention it deserves because nearby Ooty tends to attract the tourist traffic. If I were asked to chose between the two towns, Coonoor would win, without a shred of doubt.

But even a day spent in Coonoor will make you want to come back, again and again, to rest and relax. And discover more. Like Sim’s Park. This beautiful park cum botanical garden is situated in a ravine, and was developed in 1874, using the natural contours of the land. It tends to get a bit overcrowded, but to the credit of the staff of the park, the place is very well maintained.

Beautiful Sim's Park
Beautiful Sim’s Park
The flowers in full bloom in May
The flowers in full bloom in May

We had to cut short our stay at the Park because we had to two other important things to do. First, locate Baker’s Junction and second, have lunch at 180 McIver. Actually, we had come across McIver’s on our way into Coonoor from Wellington and Baker’s Junction had been highly recommended for the cheese it stocked.

After driving around a bit, we located Baker’s Junction, which was well stocked with dry goods, provisions and of course, cheese. And we were once again reminded that we live in a small world. Turned out that owner, Cedric Joseph was the brother of an old friend of Corinne.

Having ticked off the items in the shopping lists, we headed to 180 McIver. The 180 in the name comes from the unique location on a cliff that offers a fantastic 180 degree view of Coonoor.

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180McIver

180McIver is an old colonial era resort with a multi-cuisine restaurant, La Belle Vie.We had some delicious pastas and pizzas made  from scratch after the order is placed. And the desserts were delectable. Though the food is a bit expensive, the location is so unique, that overall it is a value for money proposition.

180McIver – The Resort

 

The Wellington Gymkhana Club
The Wellington Gymkhana Club

By the time we finished a leisurely lunch and went round the beautifully appointed rooms in the resort, it was almost tea time. We headed to  The Wellington Gymkhana Club for tea.

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My first taste of NonSuch BOP

There  I was introduced to NonSuch tea. And after tasting the NonSuch Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) tea, I was hooked. I now order it directly from the tea garden to drink in Mumbai. So now we have memories of Coonoor at least four times, everyday! 😉

PS: Thanks to my brother-in-law, John Campos, for the fantastic pictures.  Until he gets his website up and running, we’ll continue to showcase his talent! 🙂
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Today we’re on C of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

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